Let's talk Latin America

An evening of music and poetry at Semana Cultural

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On Tuesday 1st March, as part of Semana Cultural, we enjoyed a concert of outstanding music and poetry. Rebecca Wilson recounts the evening.

The first act was a fusion of Brazilian and Malian music by Zé Kouyate and his quartet. Zé played the kamala n’goni, a young person’s harp from West Africa. We were introduced to his instrument, the meaning of the songs, the role of griots (a West African storyteller, singer, musician, and oral historian), and Capoeira drumming and music. We didn’t just listen; Zé had the crowd singing with him and his band for ‘Ayalame’, a beautiful lullaby.

Zé is currently doing a PhD in Cardiff and Bristol studying the sonar similarities of Malian and Brazilian music, especially from Rio. His research is a journey of exploring identity through sound, using the Samba malandragem ethos as a foundation. He studies the aforementioned links, not through transatlantic slave routes but through the melodies and unseen inherited nuances; riddles of sounds and movement themselves. Algy Beherns (who has been involved with both Ají Pa’ti and Baila la Cumbia) accompanied on electric guitar and Ollie, who runs the open mic nights on Wednesdays at Left Bank and teaches Capoeira at Hamilton House, was on percussion. The Capoeira drumming finale was spectacular, showing off speed, rhythm, and vibrations that captured everyone in the audience.

André Novas Otero, a first-year Politics and Portuguese student, spoke to us (in Galego!) about Galician music- its links to Irish folk songs and its inseparable bonds to the sea. Aptly, the presentation was titled ‘Cantos na Maré’.

Joanne, Sophie and Tom, all fourth-year Catalan students, performed the witty, passionate and exciting poem ‘Tirallonga de monosíl.labs’ by Catalan poet Pere Quart. The delivery showed how cleverly the poet used the Catalan language in expressing his desires- using only monosyllabic words. The meanings, feelings and comic value in these words and their sounds would simply not hold in Castellano, nor in its English translation. Skillfully, the performers brought the language right off the page. You can read the poem here: http://rodamots.cat/escreix/pere-quart-tirallonga-dels-monosil%C2%B7labs/

1st year Amber Prothero played us clean, unedited guitar, with faultless, strong, yet pretty vocals, singing Shakira and Christina Perri in a beautiful Spanish.

The wonderful Indira Román of Ají Pa’ati joined Mirek Salmon, who played bandoneon (concertina) and Juan Carlos Gomez, who played guitar, for a mini Tango concert. It was great to listen to a couple more unusual instruments during the evening- the bandoneon, which German/Italian immigrants brought to Argentina, was mixed with Spanish flamenco guitar to create the musical genre Milonga, which Tango is based in. They played the classic Mexican ‘Bésame Mucho’ before milonga and other tango songs. Indira’s flowing melodies were sung with grace and sensuality, with musical twists of body and flicks of hair. It was elegant and exciting and the perfect end to the show.

Thank you to everyone who took part!